Madison’s Ratchet: Ambition Counteracting Ambition and the Aggregation of Political, Managerial, and Legal Controls Over Federal Administration

David H. Rosenbloom, Stephanie P. Newbold, Meghan Doughty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

In Federalist 47 and 51, James Madison contended that the accumulation of legislative, executive, and judicial powers in the hands of one body or person would produce tyranny. He explained that one defense against such tyranny was to make “ambition.. counteract ambition” by giving each of the three constitutional branches of the federal government the “means,” “motives,” and wherewithal to “resist encroachments” on their powers by another. However, after the development of the contemporary administrative state in the 1930s, rather than serving as a check against encroachments alone, the process of ambition counteracting ambition prompts each branch to develop its own set of controls over federal agencies without necessarily trenching on the powers of the other branches. “Madison’s Ratchet” is the tendency for these controls overwhelmingly to aggregate and thereby vastly complicate federal administration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)495-505
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Review of Public Administration
Volume48
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing

Keywords

  • ambition
  • federal administrative management
  • James Madison
  • political and administrative power
  • U.S. public administration

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